Bill O’Reilly Can’t Explain the Tides or the Sun

Just the other night, Dave Silverman of American Atheists was talking about his group’s new billboard with Bill O’Reilly:

O’Reilly: I’ll tell you why [religion's] not a scam. In my opinion, all right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can explain why the tide goes in…

Silverman: Tide goes in, tide goes out…?

O’Reilly: Yeah, see, the water — the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always goes in…

Silverman: Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus who’s making the tides go in and out…

O’Reilly: No no, but you can’t explain that… you can’t explain it…

It didn’t take long for people to pounce on O’Reilly’s ignorance.

Keith Olbermann named O’Reilly the “(Not Really) Worst Person in the World”:

That was fun to watch. But Stephen Colbert absolutely nailed the humor while bringing on Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain how the tides really work (I love the poke against Silverman’s facial hair…):


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Granted, this wasn’t really American Atheists’ doing — O’Reilly did it to himself — but it’s another nice benefit to getting major publicity through blunt, aggressive billboards. There’s far more to be gained by putting them up than to be lost due to “offensive” wording.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I would be willing to bet that Bill O’Reilly believes in higher ratings more than he believes in God. He knows that stirring up religious controversy sells and he plays the part of the religious conservative to pander to the 80% of (religious) product buying Americans. That is why he keeps bringing on Silverman. In his own way, O’Reilly is an evil genius.

  • Trevor

    Worst part is, people out there agree with Bill, and use that “argument” constantly.

  • Tony

    Is Bill O’Reilly a Juggalo?

    The tides and magnets yo! How do they work?!

  • jonezart

    You know what, though? Call me a cynic, but I wonder how many of O’Reilly’s viewers actually know or even care to know about the tides (and other basic science), and instead sit there & cheer him on. “That’s right, Mr. Atheist! God never takes his finger off the tides switch.”

  • J. J. Ramsey

    “Granted, this wasn’t really American Atheists’ doing — O’Reilly did it to himself”

    And therein lies the problem. Silverman was lucky that O’Reilly didn’t push him on the meaning of the word “scam,” which Silverman already said on air meant “deliberately misleading people.” O’Reilly could easily have said,

    So, the Pope doesn’t really believe in Catholicism? The pastors don’t really believe what they’re preaching? How do you know this? How do you know that they are deliberately setting out to defraud people?

    If O’Reilly had done that, Silverman would have probably looked like a fool. Then again, if O’Reilly did that, he might not have been able to get Silverman on the show again for the next round of billboards, so maybe O’Reilly wasn’t stupid and was intentionally not going for the jugular. That said, we should rely on those interviewing Silverman to make (or appear to make) mistakes.

  • Tom

    J.J. brings up a valid point. “Deliberately misleading” is the key phrase, and how much a faith leader fits that will determine how well the term “scam” fits his/her faith practice. I think it is safe to say that those highest up in the leadership of religions would likely be the most deluded, and possibly most deluded about what the motivation for their actions truly are. This can allow for someone with great influence in the Catholic church, for example, to exploit and delude its members with perhaps only the dimmest awareness of it.

  • leeloo

    i freeking love Colbert >:D

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    I actually didn’t think much of Silverman’s response. I think he would have been far more effective if he had simply said “Sure we can. It’s called the moon. As it moves around the Earth, its gravity tugs on the surface of the water making a bulge that creates the tides. Do you really not know that Bill? If your only arguments from God stem from ignorance of physical phenomena I’ll make you into an atheist by the end of this show.”

    Unfortunately, most of The Factor’s audience probably DOESN’T know how the tides work and doesn’t care.

  • Ian Welch

    I agree with J.J. on this- as being a former Catholic who’s mother worked for a parish for YEARS, I’ve known many priests; I would never doubt the sincerity of their convictions. But O’Reilly knows how to target his audience, and they probably don’t give a damn what Silverman had to say- people watch The O’Reilly Factor to watch him railroad people who don’t have the same opinion, NOT because they want a stimulating discussion.

  • jolly

    Olbermann had it right, he is one of the worst people in the world. He kept encouraging people to kill Dr. Tiller (the baby killer, as O’Reilly kept saying). This person shouldn’t be on the air at all.

  • cyndrome7

    what? did he say the scam was generated by present day leaders? the scam goes way back to freaking constatine. the fact that they believe what they are saying does not change the fact that it’s a scam.
    so jj, i tend to disagree that o’reilly could have nailed silverman to the proverbial cross by asking those questions.

  • Carlie

    I actually didn’t think much of Silverman’s response.

    I liked it. He could have explained the tides, but then BillO might have just derailed into a discussion on tides, because he couldn’t understand the answer. And then he would have just thrown up another thing that “science can’t explain”, and again and again until Silverman couldn’t himself answer, and then declared victory. His answer of another god serves for anything that we “just don’t know”.

  • http://SingAlongWithMichael.com MIchael

    Ian- You nailed it on the head. Well said.

  • NotYou007

    I laughed and cried and laughed some more.

    If want another laugh watch this…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-agl0pOQfs

  • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

    I am not sure what O’Riley meant, but he has a point. A Christian can explain the basic uniformity of nature, that nature behaves consistently over time. An unchanging, intelligent and powerful God designed it that way. It answers David Humes’ skepticism of deductive reasoning.

    What other explanation fits?

    Keep in mind this notion is basic for scientific experiments to work, and I have yet to hear a scientist explain it adequately.

  • MV

    I’m sorry, but deliberately misleading does fit. Just because you really believe in something doesn’t mean you aren’t deliberately misleading. For instance, I don’t know if Catholic leaders really believe what they are preaching but I do know that it well established that it isn’t real. Ignoring facts (for whatever reason) does not mean you get to claim ignorance. To say otherwise means that we can’t say that practicioners of homeopathy and astrology are deliberately misleading if they are true believers. It’s merely priviledge of one type of belief and impractical.

  • Phoebe

    I agree with Jeffrey. I think it would have been great if Silverman had said “I’m very embarrassed for you if you don’t know why the tides go in and out”.

    Maybe one day, religious people will realize just how embarrassingly uneducated they make themselves appear, and stop doing it!!

    As for the “scam” thing, religion IS a scam. The prophets were the “scammers”, the believers are the “scammed”. So the billboard is 100% correct.

  • fiddler

    I simply love the look on Silverman’s face. You could see him thinking that something more was coming… and then the realisation that O’Reilly was serious. Freakin classic.

    As far as J.K. Jones’ “point,” that is one of the most fundamental non concepts ever. You first presume that such common functionality is not part of our universes basic nature, which must be shown before you can presume that some force needs to counteract some other fundamental universal force.
    If you see a blue flower, do you praise god for painting a white flower blue? That is essentially what you’ve said. You need to prove that the universe would normally be “X” if not for god making it be “Z.”

  • J. J. Ramsey

    MV:

    Just because you really believe in something doesn’t mean you aren’t deliberately misleading.

    The “deliberately” part implies that one doesn’t believe what one is trying to get others to believe. If one misleads out of ignorance, that is anything but deliberate.

    To say otherwise means that we can’t say that practicioners of homeopathy and astrology are deliberately misleading if they are true believers.

    So? Why would it be a problem if we couldn’t say that true believers in X are not deliberately misleading if they try to convince others that X is true? Since they do not intend to mislead, the qualifier “deliberate” is incorrect, period.

    What you are effectively saying is that if the blind lead the blind, then we should regard the blind leaders as if they could see. That’s rather foolish.

  • minus

    Neil deGrasse Tyson is god. I can work with that.

  • http://allusiveatheist.blogspot.com T Ray

    I would like to know William C. Lane’s response to to O’Reily’s “argument.” Assuming you could keep from delineating to one of his pet fallacies.

  • Secular Stu
    To say otherwise means that we can’t say that practicioners of homeopathy and astrology are deliberately misleading if they are true believers.

    So? Why would it be a problem if we couldn’t say that true believers in X are not deliberately misleading if they try to convince others that X is true? Since they do not intend to mislead, the qualifier “deliberate” is incorrect, period.

    What you are effectively saying is that if the blind lead the blind, then we should regard the blind leaders as if they could see. That’s rather foolish.

    I both disagree and agree with you. I know I sound like it’s splitting hairs, but Silverman did say “it’s deliberately misleading people” as opposed to “they’re deliberately misleading people.

    Take for example a classic scam: the pyramid scheme. Only a tiny fraction of the people at the very top will realize it’s a scam, in fact that’s out of necessity for the scam to be effective. Nearly everybody else involved will sincerely believe it will work. This means it’s irrelevant whether or not it’s the people are deliberately misleading others, it can rightfully be called a scam even when the participants are being completely sincere.

    Say one guy and 12 of his buddies start telling tales about how if you join up you get rewarded, but not directly. Maybe you’ll get some consideration in this life but you will certainly get all sorts of goodies after you die. He sets this in motion, then dies. There’s no reason for the others in the pyramid scheme to stop. By the way, did they mention he’s coming back? He could be here any day, and when he comes back everything will be great. That’s how that scam starts and continues, it doesn’t even need anybody at the top knowing it’s a scam, because of the nature of the reward.

  • SeekerLancer

    “Like all great theologies Bill’s can be summed up in one sentence. There must be a god, because I don’t know how things work.”

    Exactly.

  • Demonhype

    Regarding “deliberately misleading people”: I don’t think it’s necessary to disbelieve in the scam to deliberately mislead people. Some believers are happy to lie and cheat and hide evidence in order to create the illusion that they are right. Some have even perjured themselves trying to force their magical myths into public school science classes, in fact. Much like Ned Flanders in that immortal scene, wherein Homer has mathematically proved there is no God and Ned, finding the math to be airtight, proceeds to light the proof aflame so it never gets out.

    When you’re willing to lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise act dishonestly to protect the belief from any sort of scrutiny or criticism, or to enforce it on others and/or to punish those who do not adhere either by law or de facto methods, you are part of the scam. The fact that you feel the need to protect your beliefs from scrutiny–while insisting that they are objectively true, no less–says to me that some subconscious part of you realizes that your beliefs cannot withstand scrutiny, but that the beliefs are more important to you than your integrity.

    Though it is true that the full-on primary scammers were at the origination of such beliefs, and most believers since have been the marks.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Secular Stu:

    Silverman did say “it’s deliberately misleading people” as opposed to “they’re deliberately misleading people.”

    That doesn’t really help you. An “it,” an inanimate thing can’t deliberately mislead because it can’t deliberate. Nor does your “pyramid scheme” example where the original intentional deceiver is dead really help, either. You’ve simply gone from making false claims that current religious leaders are intentionally misleading to making unverifiable claims that a dead man was intentionally misleading (rather than, say, sincere but insane). Neither of those supports the claim that you know it’s a scam.”

    Demonhype:

    I don’t think it’s necessary to disbelieve in the scam to deliberately mislead people. Some believers are happy to lie and cheat and hide evidence in order to create the illusion that they are right.

    Nice try, but it doesn’t really work. In common parlance, “scam” implies that the one committing the scam knows it is a lie, and it doesn’t help when the American Atheists’ own web page on its “Religion is a Scam” campaign defines “scam” in terms of shysters, fraudsters, and con men — those who know their scams are fake.

  • JohnGaltWho

    It really is scary and pathetic that people like O”Reilly (and some silly people on this board) make the argument that ignorance about phenomena is an argument for supernatural intervention. True – O’Reilly looks foolish because he picked such an inane example, the tides, but if personal ignorance is proof of god, then all rational inquiry is undermined. Why do research? Why learn anything? If you don’t understand, it is beyond your comprehension, it is “of god”. Damn, for the faithful, ignorance truly is bliss.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    the function of religion is to make woo seem real, therefore it is “deliberately misleading” and an agent unto itself.

    i can’t believe i’m the only person here to be much more disturbed by the scripted nature of bill’s speech than the ignorance of the man himself. colbert is showing people how fake all TV really is. real people like silverman go on it and are shocked, literally, at how ridiculous it is. somebody ran some numbers and discovered that ignorance of the tides and sun resonates with the ignorant who watch tv news shows. and puts it in bill’s mouth on a regular basis. that’s sort of creepy, when you think about it. not only is he a puppet, but he’s a puppet playing the role of “stupid woo believer willing to be ignorant in public on a regular basis.” how humiliating.

  • Catinthewall

    What does he mean by “Never a miscommunication?” Somehow, I think that word means what he does not think it means.

    In the Colbert clip, his montage shows that one of the times he used this “argument”, he was talking to Richard Dawkins. Where can I find the complete clip of that, I want to know how he responded to this drivel.

  • lurker111

    Here we go:

    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hagedorn/visual.htm

    (Scroll to the bottom of the page for better pix.)

    Separated at birth? ;)

  • TheirSnowGod

    On Youtube:
    [Dawkins explains science gave us understanding of tides, etc. using third grade language toward Billo],

    Billo: “But it had to get there. I uh, understand thee-uh…physiology if you will, …”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FARDDcdFaQ

  • Secular Stu

    J.J. Ramsey:

    Nice try, but it doesn’t really work. In common parlance, “scam” implies that the one committing the scam knows it is a lie, and it doesn’t help when the American Atheists’ own web page on its “Religion is a Scam” campaign defines “scam” in terms of shysters, fraudsters, and con men — those who know their scams are fake.

    You convinced me.

  • cat

    @jk jones, you are absolutely wrong for so many reasons. Let me make a list of some of the big ones.

    1) You are confusing a metaphysical problem with an epistemological one. Hume’s problem isn’t how the universe would act consistently if it does, the problem is how one would KNOW that. Positing a god does not solve that problem at all, because the next obvious question is how you know god keeps the universe consistent, which brings you back to the same exact problem. You have not addressed Hume’s problem here at all.

    2) We do not need to know the causal history that makes a thing true to know it is true. I do not know why the border guard inspects buses in Rochester, but I know they do it, because I have seen them do it. In the same way, I would not necessarily need to know why the universe behaves uniformly to know that it does.

    3) You are not disputing the principle of uniformity of nature. If you think that we cannot know it 100% to be true and that science assumes it, you still have failed to make a point if you have accepted the principle of uniformity of nature as true, because science would still be based on true premises.

    4) You are making a god of the gaps fallacy here. My inability to explain any given thing does not prove god exists. Google ‘god of the gaps’ and shut your trap.

    Sorry to the rest of you about the nerdy derail, but jk jones’ comment pissed me off.

    Back to O’Reilly, I can’t be the only one who thought the obvious answer to the ‘sun goes up, sun goes down’ is that it doesn’t. The earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. Wow, I thought Galileo had mostly settled that one years ago. The sun does not in fact go up and down, it just looks like it does because of optics and relativity of motion. Also, tides are not always consistent, ask anyone who has ever been at the shore before a tidal wave hit.

  • Bronco

    cat kicks jk jones’ butt! Every single pro god argument is a bunch of strung together fallacies.

  • http://godobscuresperception.blogspot.com God Obscures Perception

    Kneel before Neil!!! HILARIOUS.

    Bill O’Reilly is a scheming, money-grubbing mastermind of the media/political game. He is the Roy Cohn of our era. He doesn’t believe in any of the shit he says, he does it just to get attention.

    Anymore, I just roll my eyes at him.

  • Jaira_manansala

    hahahahah


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